After making my best effort to be excused from service, I’ve been called for Jury Duty. This is my civic obligation and, I suppose, the payoff to being able to vote, so I am not upset. I am, however, concerned with the process of selection. Were I a suspect in a court case, I would be downright terrified.
Employers are required by law to excuse you from work when called for jury duty, though most employees, when faced with the $15-$20 per day compensation offered by the court, would most likely choose to take their lumps at work rather than accept a sizeable cut in pay. Some trials can last for weeks and go on for 10 or 12 hours a day.
I don’t mean to come across as a belly-acher or some kind of money-monger, but consider this: the knowledge of coming up short with cash to pay off bills, coupled with the stress endured by having to listen to what could be grisly details of a crime, can take a definite toll on a person. And that toll could be directly passed onto the defendant(s).
The goal for most jurors who were not able to be excused from jury duty is to wrap up their ‘job’ as quickly as possible in order to return to their professions, their families and their normal life. With this incentive in mind, and realizing an ever growing apathy towards our fellow man, it is not uncommon for a juror to wantonly side with his peers when deciding a verdict, or even to utilize selective listening in the courtroom, daydreaming about the places s/he would rather be than roped into their ‘civic duty.’
How many suspects have been quickly convicted because of this reality? How many decisions have been hurried through so as to avoid a meal away from loved ones or — worse still — the possibility of being sequestered for one, two, many nights? And this is supposed to be justice?
I heard a line in a sitcom the other night suggesting “smart people get out of jury duty.” It is true, I’m sure, that the clerks in the court office have heard every excuse in the book, from racism, insanity, relocation (whether an actual move will take place or not) and so on.
Given such aversions to service, who in their right mind would consider it a good idea to pull in a potential juror whose application to be excused from duty was denied? Do you think this person will arrive in court bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, ready to see some real life litigation play out?
Or is it more likely they will arrive a bitter, angry citizen already stacked against the defendants, the lawyers, the court system in general for wasting their time, compromising their ability to earn an honest day’s pay, removing them from potential quality moments which could be spent making memories with their families, and so on?
I pray I will never be put in a situation where my fate lies in the hands of a ‘jury of my (indifferent) peers.’ Were that day to come, I’d request the inscription above the courtroom be altered from “Justice for All” to the perhaps more accurate “Abandon All Hope…”
Well, you know the rest.
by Paymon West | Assistant Editor | Residential Life Magazine